Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury teaches that the voice of a people cannot be quieted or controlled. There will always be those that will stand up to authority even in the face of grave danger. Bradburys use of fire throughout the novel symbolizes the protagonists, Montag, journey of enlightenment, from its ability to take as much as it can be used to give.
In the beginning of the novel Montag sees the world like everyone at that time. Fire was meant to strike fear in the hearts of people, but yet Montag says it was a pleasure to burn. He didnt understand what the consequences of him burning the books had, and neither did the rest of the world. Society was one mind, and one body; no longer filled with individuals. Fire was everywhere, so no one questioned it, just accepted it. At the same time Clarisse comes along as the exact opposite of fire. She was soft, gently, and seemed to be filled with a boisterous joy. I like to put my head back, like this, and let the rain fall in my mouth. It tastes just like wine.
Fire is again used to show Montags views changing when he witnessed the old woman set her own house on fire with refusing to leave her books. He says, There must be something in books, things we cant imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house. It is the turning point in the book for Montag; it was the first time he consciously started to doubt what he had been doing for the past decade. This event starts a fire in Montag, one that will eventually burst into a blazing flame.
Montag killed Beatty at the hand of the flame thrower, but yet Beatty didnt fight back; he wanted to die. He understood everything, and had killed and burnt. Fire burns everything and eventually it will engulf you as well, which is what had finally happened to Beatty in a literal sense. Just before Montag burnt Beatty he made the statement, We never burned right. Fire was used to harm, and Montag finally realized that they shouldnt be burning the books, because in burning the books they were also burning to knowledge and intellect of the world.
Near the end Montag sees fire in a whole new light. It was not burning. It was warming. This was the point in which Montags state of mind had completely changed. The fire was now a comfort, and a calming state of mind instead of burning the life out of him. Good can come from fire, even if it has to first destroy.
Bradbury ends the novel when the cities are destroyed by the firepower of the enemy during onset of war. Montag and other saviors of books are spared as they hide out in the forests. As the men begin to cook their breakfast over an open fire, Granger tells Montag the story of the phoenix. There was this silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. Just as the phoenix will always rise out of the ashes, so will society rise again after it has destroyed itself.
Fire was used to show fear, change, and comfort. Fahrenheit 451; the temperature at which books burn.